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Contracts approved for Outer Harbor recreational development

WBFO file image/Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation has approved three contracts for next phases of ongoing projects along Buffalo's Outer Harbor.

The architectural firm Olin has been tapped to design a portion of the First Buffalo River Marina Capital Improvements project. Their task, according to ECHDC president Steve Ranalli, is to design the space to accommodate business and recreational visitors while giving boaters their due space. This includes improving vehicular access and circulation, loading and limited parking for marina users.

"That marina, in particular, has 115 slips and we set out, from the beginning, to retain all of those to ensure that those boats users who have been down there for years, before the rest of us realized Buffalo had a waterfront, we wanted to make sure we had space for them. We've been able to do that and we'll continue to make sure that, in the final construction plans, we retain all of those spaces," Ranalli said.

Other plans by the ECHDC for the First Buffalo River Marina include relocation of the Queen City Bike Ferry landing, moving it more south to a point closer to Wilkeson Pointe.

Bergmann has been awarded a contract to work on the Terminal B space. The ECHDC, which earlier this summer celebrated the opening of nearby Lakeside Bike Park, wants to expand the ecological restoration area, extend multi-use and single-track bike trails, build a new structure to accommodate concessions, rest rooms and storage, and develop entertainment space including a sloped lawn ampitheater. 

Could this be looked upon as a future site to replace the concerts now held at Canalside? Ranalli did not suggest so, but told WBFO the Outer Harbor will certainly be a desireable site for many events once further development gets underway in Canalside.

"The thing about Canalside is that we're hoping to build a very vibrant 24/7 neighborhood down there," Ranalli said. "As more buildings get built, as more residents move in, we're going to have smaller and smaller spaces to put on concerts. I think the concerts will evolve at Canalside and those larger ones, we'll certainly have a home for them on the Outer Harbor."

Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architects has been tapped to enter phase two of developmental design between Wilkeson Pointe and Bell Slip. Each contract runs through the end of next year.

The harbor board says the overall goals of the project include improving use and enjoyment of the Outer Harbor and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian access.

“Buffalo’s Outer Harbor holds so much potential,” said ECHDC Board Chair Robert Gioia, in a prepared statement. “The area is popular with visitors who are enjoying the waterfront thanks to the projects the state has completed at Wilkeson Pointe, Buffalo Harbor State Park and Lakeside Complex, and these additional plans will outline the next steps for Outer Harbor investment, creating even more recreational opportunities and access.”

Ranalli says environmental reviews will be completed in the next nine to 12 months. Bidding will follow in late 2020, with the hope that construction at each site may begin in early 2021.